Vitamin B5 in a nutshell:
Vitamin B5 is used to make coenzyme A which is required in the building up of fats and ultimately used to make various hormones, coenzyme Q and vitamin D.
Best source of Vitamin B5 for Juicers
Vitamin B5 is found in most foods, so deficiency is rare. It’s also not easy to list “juicables” to get more B5 as the types of plant produce its found in don’t juice particularly well – sunflower seeds, advocado, black-eye beans, brown rice, sun dried tomatoes, caschew nutes etc
What Is Vitamin B5?
Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin that was discovered in 1933. The famed nutritional chemist Roger Williams gave it the name panthothenic acid after the Greek word panthos, meaning “everywhere.” Vitamin B5 appears in almost all living things from bacteria to humans.
Alternative Names: Vitamin B5; pantothenic acid, pantothenate.
There are several different chemicals identified as vitamin B5. The form of vitamin B5 that is active in living organisms is D-pantothenic acid. It's the only form of vitamin B5 that actually serves any function in living cells.
Scientists have known how to make synthetic D-pantothenic acid since 1940, but it is a very unstable chemical that is easily degraded by exposure to light, heat, or acids. To stabilize D-pantothenic acid so it won't break down in a supplement as it is being stored, most manufacturers chemically combine it with calcium to make calcium pantothenate. The pantothenate part of the molecule is much more complex than the calcium to which it is attached. About 92% of calcium pantothenate is easily reduced to D-panthothenic acid that the body can readily use.
There is also a form of vitamin B5 known as pantethine. This is the kind of B5 you will see on the label in skin care products. It contains a form of sulfur that makes it chemically ready to participate in energy production in waiting cells. Due to a loophole in the labeling laws, most skin care products don't actually contain the pantethine they list on the label.
Skin care creams actually use another, liquid form of vitamin B5 variously known as panthenol, D-panthenol, dexpanthenol, or D-pantothenyl alcohol. This form of B5 is a “pro-vitamin,” which means that the body has to convert it into the active form of vitamin B5. This form of B5 can be applied directly to the skin to encourage healing of wounds and skin irritation. There are dexpanthenol shampoos to encourage hair regrowth for women.
Food contains yet another form of vitamin B5, phosphopantetheine. This is the form of vitamin B5 actually used in living things. It's too unstable to use as a supplement so nutritional supplements and skin care products have to use other kinds of B5.
What Does Vitamin B5 Do in the Body?
Plants make vitamin B5 to help them make complex antioxidant molecules such as the polyphenols and lignins that help preserve tissues and normal cell function both in the plants and in the animals that consume the plants. Animals, including humans, use vitamin B5 to make coenzyme A and acyl carrier groups.
Coenzyme A is essential for connecting small fat molecules to make large fat molecules. Most of the body's hormones begin as cholesterol. Coenzyme A helps transform cholesterol into all kinds of hormones. The body also uses it to make ubiquinone (also known as coenzyme Q10) and vitamin D. If you don't have enough vitamin B5, your body can't make enough Co-Q10 or vitamin D. Every cell in the human body uses coenzyme A to make complex lipids, such as the phosphatidylcholine that in every cell membrane and the ceramide that makes up most of the water-resistant layers of the skin.
The body uses acyl carrier groups to make the enzymes that transform one fatty acid into another, such as converting DHA (the essential fatty acid found in plant foods) into EPA (the essential fatty acid found in fish oil). It also uses vitamin B5 in the processes that create some kinds of proteins.
Vitamin B5 is useless without other nutrients.
The first step of the body's process of transforming vitamin B5 into various enzymes requires an enzyme called pantothenase. Your body can't make this enzyme without magnesium.
The second step of the body's process of transforming vitamin B5 into enzymes requires the amino acid cysteine. The body uses this amino acid to make an intermediate chemical known as 4′-phosphopantothenoyl cysteine. Without this amino acid, the products of the first step just accumulate without ever being used to make essential enzymes. Later steps in the processes that the body uses B5 to make enzymes also require magnesium or cysteine.
The human body can only absorb about 10 mg of vitamin B5 in any one day. Excess vitamin B5 is not absorbed and is eliminated from the body with feces. The processes that require vitamin B5 keep it in a buffered state for up to about 3 days. If your diet suddenly eliminated all vitamin B5, it would take about 3 days for any deficiency symptoms to appear.
What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Vitamin B5?
Because vitamin B5 is in nearly all foods, it is very rare for anyone to suffer a vitamin B5 deficiency. Most of what scientists know about vitamin B5 was observed during World War II. Allied prisoners held in Burma, the Philippines, and Japan were severely malnourished. Among survivors, many suffered alternating numbness and painful burning in the feet. Giving the liberated troops vitamin B5 helped relieve this symptom.
In the United States, some conscientious objectors to military service, most of them young Amish or Mennonite men, were conscripted to participate in medical experiments to determine the effects of starvation. Some of these Americans were given experimental diets that contained no vitamin B5. The effects of intentional vitamin B5 deficiency ranged from depression and listlessness to headaches, insomnia, intestinal disturbances, and alternating numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
Animals also have been used in vitamin deprivation experiments. Chickens fed diets that contained no B5 developed abnormalities in their feathers and spinal nerve damage because of the depletion of the myelin sheath that protects the spinal cord. Rats fed diets deficient in B5 developed damage to the adrenal glands, while dogs became hypoglycemic and had seizures. Monkeys given diets deficient in B5 developed anemia. These experiments were thought to be necessary during World War II to be able to treat human beings as they were released from concentration camps. German and Japanese scientists reportedly also conducted vitamin deprivation experiments without any kind of ethical controls but scientists in other parts of the world refused to refer to them.
Are You at Risk for Vitamin B5 Deficiency?
It's highly unlikely that you will suffer a deficiency of vitamin B5 severe enough to cause any of the symptoms listed above. Many people, however, get less than enough vitamin B5 for optimum health. People on ad libitum (eat what you want) diets in nursing homes often don't get enough B5, as do some people who live in inner cities who get most of their calories from hot dogs, chips, and sodas.
One study found that the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet did not provide optimal levels of B5, and American families who have to deal with “more month than food” issues at the end of every month get variable amounts of B5.
There are also certain medications that interfere with getting enough vitamin B5.
- Valproic acid, the anti-seizure medication that is sold under the trade names Depakote and Depakene in North America, depletes coenzyme A in nerve tissue. Restoring coenzyme A in the nerves may require both supplemental vitamin B5 and supplemental L-carnitine.
- Gentamicin and streptomycin antibiotics sometimes damage the “hairs” lining the inner ear. This can cause hearing loss, dizziness, and vomiting. In some cases vitamin B5 supplements prevent this side effect.
Some other kinds of vitamin deficiency can cause vitamin B5 deficiency.
- Vitamin C seems to help the body conserve vitamin B5. In laboratory experiments, giving animals the equivalent of 2000 mg of C every day helped relieve symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency without giving the animals any additional B5. It's possible than vitamin C deficiency could aggravate the symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency.
- The same cells in the small intestine absorb both biotin (another B vitamin) and vitamin B5. Taking large amounts of biotin might cause or aggravate vitamin B5 deficiency.
How to Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin B5
In the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine felt there was not enough data on vitamin B5 deficiency diseases to set a “recommended daily intake” of the vitamin so they instead set an “adequate intake” for good health. They estimated adequate intake of B5 as follows:
- For women who are breastfeeding, 7 mg a day.
- For women who are pregnant, 6 mg a day.
- For all other adults (men and women over 18 years of age), 5 mg a day.
- For teens of both sexes, 4 mg a day.
- For tweens (aged 9 through 12), 3 mg a day.
- For older children (aged 4 through 8), 2 mg a day.
- For infants and toddlers, 2 mg a day. Infants actually have an adequate intake that is 0.1 to 0.3 mg a day less, but the amount is too small to make a difference in planning meals or supplements.
It's not hard to get all the vitamin B5 you need from food if you eat the recommended 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Here are just some of the possibilities:
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of Kellogg's Complete Oat Bran Flakes or Wheat Flakes or General Mill's Total provides 30 to 35 mg of vitamin B5 (almost all of it from artificial sources).
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of dried shiitake mushrooms provides 22 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of fried chicken livers provides 7 to 8 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of cooked beef liver provides 7 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of sunflower seeds provides 7 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of cooked beef, pork, or lamb kidneys provides 5 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of shiitake mushrooms provides 4 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of liver sausage/liver wurst/liver cheese provides 3 to 4 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of Pacific salmon filets provides 3 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of white cornmeal provides 2 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of Atlantic salmon filets, avocado, black-eye peas (cowpeas), brown rice, button mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, dried ancho peppers, chicken egg, duck egg, salted cod, sun dried tomatoes, sweet potato chips, or turkey egg provides about 2 mg of B5.
- A 3-1/2 oz/100 gram serving of beef, pork, canned chili, chicken, fast food fried chicken, turkey, veal, ham, bulgur, cashew nuts, scrambled eggs, Camembert cheese, white rice, lima beans, chorizo, dried apricots, rice cakes, jelly doughnuts, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, or salad greens contains about 1 mg of B5.
Vitamin enriched cereals and shiitake mushrooms are outstanding sources of vitamin B5, but just about any food, even fast food and junk food, contains some B5. You will also get more vitamin B5 from dried or roasted vegetables and less from boiled vegetables, and you will always get more vitamin B5 from fresh food rather than frozen food. However, many mass produced foods contain 10 to 30 times more B5 than their home made counterparts, due to fortification at the factory.
Using Vitamin B5 to Support Recovery From Diseases
Vitamin B5 has been used to support recovery from many disease conditions, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not.
Acne is sometimes treated with vitamin B5 supplements, but the single clinical trial in the medical literature invites extreme skepticism.
Dr. Lit-Hung Leung published a study in the journal Medical Hypotheses that he had recruited 100 residents of Hong Kong aged 10 to 30 who had acne. He persuaded them to participate in an experiment involving the internal and external use of vitamin B5 to treat acne. They were instructed to take 10,000 mg of B5 a day plus to treat their faces with a 20% vitamin B5 cream six times a day. Without mentioning how many blemishes were treated or whether there were any side effects, Dr. Leung reported that “liberal” use of vitamin B5 might be the answer.
This dosage of vitamin B5 is enough to cause side effects in some people. There is no other evidence that the treatment works for acne—or that it works for acne who do not have Asian skin types. It's probably OK to try to treat acne with vitamin B5, since there are no reported side effects. Creams made with the form of B5 called dexpanthenol may relieve dryness and itching caused by Accutane.
Adrenal “burnout” may be prevented with vitamin B5. Chronic insufficiency of vitamin B5 in the diet may result in shrinking of the adrenal glands. This can lead to feeling tired all the time and having trouble dealing with diseases that cause inflammation. It is important to pay attention to diet or to take vitamin B5 supplements before adrenal burnout symptoms develop. Once there have been permanent anatomical changes in the adrenal glands it may be too late.
Cold stress (stress reactions to winter cold) has been treated with vitamin B5. In one study, men who received very large doses of B5 (10,000 mg per day) had smaller drops in white blood cell count after swimming in ice cold water. If you don't swim in ice cold water during the winter, however, the side effects of the supplement may be more annoying than the colds they may prevent.
Hair loss in women caused by polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS) or autoimmune disease (such as Sjögren's syndrome) may respond to the form of vitamin B5 called dexpanthenol. It has to be applied directly to the scalp. A product called Hair Start by New England Associates may help—but don't buy it without a money-back guarantee.
High cholesterol and high triglycerides often respond to vitamin B5 supplementation. There have been three clinical trials of vitamin B5 for high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Two of the trials showed a benefit from taking vitamin B5, but they had so few participants that data analysis could never have shown statistical significance.
In the one clinical trial that had enough participants to produce statistically significant data, taking 300 mg of the pantethine form of vitamin B5 led to an average 30% decrease in triglycerides, an average 13.5% reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and an average 10% increase in HDL or “good” cholesterol. Other studies have found that the pantethine form of B5 is also helpful for diabetics managing cholesterol and triglycerides.
Obesity sometimes is treated with vitamin B5, but as with acne, the scientific evidence for the treatment is limited to a single study in China. One dieters, all of them Chinese, were put on a low-calorie diet limited to 1,000 calories per day. They were given 250 mg of vitamin B5 four times a day. The average weight loss in the group was 1.2 kilos/2.6 pounds per week, but dieters did not complain of hunger, and urine tests indicated the dieters' bodies were using sugar rather than fat for fuel. (This is a good thing if you are diabetic.) The dosage used in the study is at the borderline of amounts high enough to cause stomach upset—scale back your consumption of B5 if taking 250 mg four times a day causes diarrhea or vomiting.
Osteoarthritis has been treated with a combination of vitamin B5 and L-cysteine supplements. Among arthritis supplements who used aspirin to control pain, however, taking 500 mg of B5 a day was, at least in one clinical trial, found to reduce morning stiffness and severity of pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis responds to higher doses of vitamin B5. One study found that taking 2,000 mg of calcium pantothenate reduced morning stiffness, swelling, and pain. This dose is high enough that some people may experience stomach upset from taking it unless they take eight 250-mg tablets or capsules throughout the day. Even then, stomach problems are common.
Wounds usually heal faster when treated with skin creams that contain pantethine or pantothenic acid. Taking a B5 supplement by mouth probably won't hurt, but it isn't likely to help, either.
Is Vitamin B5 Ever Toxic?
Unlike some other vitamins, vitamin B5 can cause serious problems when overdosed—but you have take far more B5 than required to prevent deficiency or to support recovery from any health condition. Animal studies have shown that extreme overdoses of B5 cause death from respiratory failure. A lethal dose of B5 is about 10,000 mg per kilogram of body weight. This means that a person who weighed 100 kilos (220 pounds) would have to take 1000 tablets containing 1000 mg of B5 before death occurred—but it's unlikely that the stomach could hold that much.
Taking a single dose of 1000 mg of B5 may cause heartburn, nausea, or diarrhea. Since this is about 150 times what most people need and about 100 times the amount in most vitamin B5 supplements, this effect is unlikely for most users of the vitamin.
There is one report in the medical literature of a person who developed pulmonary effusion (fluid around the heart and lungs) after taking 300 mg of vitamin B5 and 10 mg of biotin every day for two months. The symptoms stopped when the supplements were discontinued. There also have been reports of vitamin B5 interfering with the action of some prescription anticoagulant medications (such as Coumadin/warfarin), so caution in taking B5 supplements when taking blood thinners is advised.